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Luca Salassa


photoactivation of pt in cells


What does the image show?

The image shows actual cancer cells, however the metal complexes (anticancer agent) inside the cells are a simulation. We can not see metal complexes inside cells so well, but we know they are in by using several techniques (microscopy for example). I have used colors for the cells to highlight the fact that light is important in this type of treatment and that light is causing some sort of change in cancer cells due to the active metal-containing molecules. Moreover, the round shapes of the molecules (they are orbitals) represent their electronic structure which is key (necessary!) in the light-activation process.

Why would this approach reduce the side effects?

Generally, after a drug is administered it goes in several parts of the body, not only to the target. This is unwanted and can cause side effects. Photoactivation can potentially reduce side effects because only light-irradiated body areas will have the active drug. The part of the body that are not irradiated won't be attached by the drug.

How soon would people expect to see this process being used in hospitals?

This type of treatment is already used in the clinic. It is called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). Despite this important success, the active molecules used so far have several drawbacks (they can definitely be improved). We are trying to develop new compounds, based on metals, which can work with the same principle but with improved features (and new mechanism of action). We have succeeded in designing metal derivatives that can kill cancer cells very effectively only when irradiated (which is good, because you want them to be inactive in the dark), however before seeing them in the hospitals many more tests will be needed (there are strict rules to pass before a new drug can be used). More studies are needed.

What got you interested in this area of research?

I got interest in anticancer research because of the high impact in society that findings in this field could have (improve the life of people that are dealing with a life-changing illness)



















Luca Salassa

Luca Salassa